It’s probably not the most original idea in the world, but on the 10 year anniversary of the attacks, here are my thoughts on it, looking back. For people who don’t know me I’m a Canadian, but like many Canadians I could almost have been American on that particular day with the emotions brought up. Prior to that day, I understood logically the question "Where were you when JFK was shot?" but didn't necessarily feel it on an emotional level. But with the Attacks, I got it. It's very easy for me to recall the moment I first found out about the Attacks.
The day of the Attacks, I was working for BC’s Ministry of Advanced Education, Training and Technology (soon to be shortened to its current Ministry of Advanced Education). There was one woman who was part of a different branch but whose office space was in the area of the branch I was working at. Not long after she and I had arrived at work, she asked me something along the lines of, “Did you hear that the World Trade Center collapsed?” I hadn’t consciously realized that I knew the World Trade Center that well, but on some level I must have, because I asked, “Both of them?” Sadly she answered in the affirmative.
For much of the day, work didn’t get done. I think coffee break was longer than usual. Coffee breaks were pretty depressing for the next little while. During this break or one soon after one co-worker predicted that things would never be the same again. I didn’t want to get into a debate but inwardly I was thinking that after a while things would return to some sense of normality. I think time proved us both right in different ways.
I recall that there was a lot of watching TV at work that first day. I didn’t do too much of that but others did. I did watch a lot of the coverage after returning home from work. It was one of the few days that George W. Bush actually seemed to be a decent guy to me, though later info has skewed my impression of his behaviour on that day. But that would be more of a tangent than I want to go into here.
I recall that while there was some coverage of the hit on the Pentagon and the crashing of United 13, the World Trade Center was the focal point. I imagine this was because there were more people in the area with video cameras and photos. Plus there was a lot of dramatic footage. You had too towers hit, periods where they were smoking but still standing (during which some people desperately jumped out of the buildings) followed by the collapse. Even had there been more footage of the Pentagon crash, I doubt it would have made as dramatic footage.
Finally the whole thing got too depressing to watch further. The coverage soon because very repetitious. The newscasters wanting to bring up to the date coverage and thus pre-empted everything on the major networks. But there was only so much information to go around that first day. It would take time to figure out more of what happened. I decided to check the fringe stations to see if there was something more upbeat on, to give my mind a rest from all the unpleasantries. One station had Candid Camera on. Perfect, that was exactly what I needed. I’ve never enjoyed an episode of that show more before or since, even though I can no longer tell you what was covered in that particular episode.
It was also interesting to watch the reactions immediately afterwards. Entertainers took q hit. Bill Maher got fired for disagreeing with Bush that the attacks were cowardly (I’m not a bit fan of Maher but I’m with him on that point). New fall shows like 24 and The Agency had their first episodes moved or changed. TV shows and movies had the towers removed from them (probably a mistake in most cases since apparently crowds cheered at the sight of the Towers at a screening of a Troma movie not long after). Action movies got delayed.
In the comics world, people started questioning the relevance of superheroes given their inability to stop real world crises; ironically, once things died down, superheroes actually thrived when they made the jump to the big screen, much more than before the attacks (and on TV, Smallville, starting the same fall as the attacks, began a record-breaking ten-season run). More importantly to the comics world though, many publishers put out comic book benefit books with funds going to the rescue efforts. Some really good stories got produced during this time. No one was “phoning it in” in their stories. Lots of stories straight from the heart. Some good movies based on the attacks came later of course, but the initial comic stories came out much sooner and there’s a raw quality to them that stories produced years later couldn’t possibly have.
There are of course lots of artistic material put out further down the road, such as the comic book adaptation of the 9-11 Report and Fahrenheit 9-11, but there’s enough material regarding later stuff that a separate blog post can probably cover that.
What we heard of people’s behaviour in New York immediately after the attacks was mostly inspiring. Of course there were jerks who tried selling parts of the towers on eBay before eBay put a stop to that. But the vast majority of stores from New York were of people coming together to help the firemen and other rescue works, even from other part so the US and Canada. It was heart-warming hearing of people coming together for a time.
I think there was a brief period where the US enjoyed the greatest amount of goodwill that they’d had in many decades. Sadly that’s been eroded by the US’s attack on Iraq, overly zealous border crossing rules, reports of people acting prejudiced against Muslims or people who “looked like Muslims”, etc. But there was a time ten years ago, a time of great evil, when the world was united in sharing the grief that the United States was feeling. You may love the US, you may hate it, you may love the country but hate its government, it doesn’t matter. On that day, on that amazing day, most of the world was united in pulling for the United States and condemning the evil of the terrorist attacks.